Author Archives: ladymacbeth78

Transforming Learning Through 21st Century Skills- Part Two

I finished the book with a true grasp of the topic. The very clear and concise points moved smoothly through the rest of the chapters. There were many opportunities to stop and see where each individual fits in the discussion. Chapter 4 defined and stressed the importance of school culture as it applies to the climate and atmosphere of the school. Six characteristics define a positive school culture. The survey assessment was particularly interesting. Chapter 5 covered setting and achieving goals. One suggestion was a list of energy savers and energy wasters. By visualizing the end result, the process made perfect sense to me. Chapter 6 was perhaps my favorite because it emphasized the need to communicate clearly. It is an essential skill to all aspects of life. Chapter 7 asks the reader to predict possible roadblocks and barriers. Four types of response were discussed and the challenge to identify where the individual fits into the discussion was very enlightening. Chapter 8 asks for the individual to engage support with personal accountability and peer groups. Chapter 9 says to make it real in the classroom and continue learning. There was a very comprehensive collection of resources at the end of the book.

The reflections listed at the end of the chapters appealed to me because they followed up with the ideas presented in the chapter. This allowed me to finish a chapter with reflections and a sense of closure. For me, I wish I had the actual book rather than the digital book. I think keeping the reflections in a journal format would be very appealing; however, the notes I took accomplished the same goal, but not as organized as I would have liked. I enjoyed this format and the focus of the topic. Highly recommended for those who want an excellent overview and guidebook for this important venture in education.

Transforming Learning through 21st Century Skills

If you are still looking for a general overview and background information on the subject of 21st century education, this is a great resource. It is very clearly organized and easy to read. Chapter 1 deals with the rapid pace of change in the world as it applies to our students. Two statistics jumped out at me. First, the top jobs that our students will be competing for as adults did not exist in 2004. Second, today’s students will have 10-14 jobs by the age of 38. Lydotta and Jill gave personal observations of their children’s experience with technology in the 1980’s. I was reminded of my daughter’s delight with her Speak and Spell – after all, it was so advanced that ET was able to use it to contact his space ship, right?
The authors identified eight of the greatest challenges for educators today. They also defined generations from Baby Boomers to Gen I, and gave a synopsis of the evolution.

Chapter 2 discusses 21st century skills and a model for change. “We do not believe that technology is a must in every 21st century skills learning opportunity.” A rainbow graphic shows the skills that our students will need to master- they look very familiar and incorporate information media and tech skills as one of several components. The chapter ended with a self check- is your classroom a 21st century classroom? Even the most traditional teacher will be delighted to find that they are farther along than they could imagine. The Who Took My Chalk?tm step by step model was then explained. The chapter summary allows the reader to take a moment to make sure that they have the main ideas presented in the text.

Chapter 3 challenges the reader to recognize the need or desire to make changes in their approach. Looking at our own fears and keeping a positive attitude for their suggested 21 days can allow the teacher time to make a few changes and then reflect on the process. The authors also said that keeping the changes and adjustments positive and happy for the teacher is a key approach.

These first three chapters have provided a solid background and foundation for the next section.

Movie Trailers

My first venture into project based learning has been very interesting. I asked my film criticism students to create a movie trailer using iMovie. I felt that it allowed creativity within a framework that could be managed by 7th and 8th graders. I tried to give only a few restrictions, and I provided them with the tools that they needed to be successful. I told them that the trailer had to be for an existing movie, and only one group could use a genre so we didn’t have the same format and music over and over. We have seven groups with three people in a group. I tried to mix grades and genders to create a group that could work efficiently. I provided them with their notebook of terms to check and match with the iMovie requirements, access to a computer, and a great technical support person, my mentor Ami, to help answer questions. The initial reaction to the assignment- stunned silence and blank looks. After a few questions, and one eager student, I finally got a reaction to the project, and it was not what I expected. My “digital natives” did not have a clue how to approach the assignment, and several students expressed reluctance because although several of them had experience with iMovie, they didn’t think they could handle this specific program.
I then realized that it was not the technology, or the project itself- they didn’t know how to get started or organize their tasks. So we took a big step back and practiced some basic techniques of problem solving. It was fascinating to see how differently each group began their preparations. One group storyboarded their entire trailer by drawing it out frame by frame “just like Hitchcock did with his movies”- I was so proud because they obviously paid attention during that unit. Other groups made lists, divided responsibilities, tried to do every aspect together, and even had a few creative differences. The filming process challenged them artistically, and we learned how to use a green screen, and be patient enough to do several takes. We are watching the finished product on Monday. I suspect that the real lesson learned has more to do with the process than the product. If that is the case, I will consider this first project a success.

Media Fluency

Timing is everything. Every semester I try to find a creative way to let my Film Criticism students demonstrate their understanding of the work that we have done during the semester. Projects that find examples of film terms, outlines, and film clip analysis are ideas that I have used in the past. I was trying to come up with something new and challenging for my students with little success. Media fluency defines what I am looking for from my students-the ability to look at media to understand the real message. We talk about how different directors influence and guide their audience to an artistic and emotional message. The good director takes an audience on a journey of discovery for a variety of purposes that should be well defined and create a platform for the director’s vision. The second component is to create an original product that matches the media to the understanding of the purpose of the film.
Then we visited New Tech High in Coppell, Texas, on April 2. The young man, Jack, that was one of our ambassadors and tour guide on the visit, inspired me. One of the classes that he is passionate about creates videos and movies. He was so enthusiastic that I started thinking about how I could let my students create a movie about movies. After working with iMovie, I wondered what options would suit my 7th and 8th grade students.
I then sought professional help – my colleague Ami, who has been a true inspiration to my education into all things technical. As I explained my goal, she immediately pulled up the new version of iMovie that allows students to create a movie trailer- a perfect project that will ask students to use a variety of camera angles and other terms that we have discussed this semester. Our plan is to have them work in teams with the goal of having a trailer film festival at the end of the project to show to the other elective classes. I hope that this will allow the students to show their knowledge of films through the creative process and get more experience with iMovie.
It has always been my goal to have my film students be intelligent consumers, and enhance their enjoyment of an activity that they choose to pursue in their free time. I am excited about plunging into this project!

Les Miserables Project

I wanted to provide an optional extra credit project for my 7th grade English students. I asked them to attend a performance of Les Miserables Student Edition presented by our very talented Performing Arts department. I knew that information was going to be the key to the success of the project. Ask good questions- I wanted to know how much my students knew about the play and the time period. It turned out that the resources that came with the script were invaluable to giving enough information to provide background, but not too much to turn the students away. Access and acquire material- the actor’s guide gave an overview, and I provided a summary that did not give away too much of the plot. We also got to see the set and costumes prior to the performance to get into the time period and place. Analyze-the students had eight questions to review prior to the production, and they were asked to select at least five of the items to discuss in their review of the play. Apply- the critical analysis asked the student to apply their observations and assemble their thoughts in written format. Assess- this worked for both the student and the reader. The critical analysis asked the viewer/writer to explain why the reader should make an effort to see the show.
Seventeen of my students accepted the challenge, and I was very pleased with the results. Across the board, the students recognized the power of the story and the music. The show ran almost three hours, but the students were not put off by the length or amount of singing. I believe that the key to the success of this project was the gathering and use of information to create a memorable experience before, during, and after the performance.

Global Digital Citizenship

As I read my book, 21st CENTURY SKILLS I was very impressed with the examples of students that made a difference in their communities around the world. From the students in Sydney who uploaded data to track climate change trends, to the London students who prepared a plan to put a traffic light at a dangerous intersection near their school, these students found practical ways to bring about change. The Jewish, Muslim, and Christian students at a school for peace in Israel created a video sharing their ideas for peace in the Middle East. The one example that touched me the most was students in a Palo Alto robotics class that researched the needs of quadriplegics and those with mobility challenges. It was such a seamless blend of compassion, empathy, and service to mankind.
I had just visited with my 7th graders about the skills necessary to implement our 1:1 program next fall. They had a great grasp of what they needed to learn to be successful. It occurred to me that even basic concepts with a computer needed to be mastered to take the next step toward digital citizenship. As we progress with this venture, it will be interesting to see how the students can take these skills and apply them globally.

Book report – 21st Century Skills Learning For Life In Our Times

After looking at several choices for books to read on this subject, I selected Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel’s book in digital format. I had hoped to find a book that provided a great overview of the topic as well as practical suggestions. This book did not disappoint. The prologue sets the tone with the title, “The Search for Innovative Learning,” that took us to Napa New Tech High School. They are famous for their project approach to learning. It was a fascinating glimpse into one school’s mission to keep the spirit of innovation and invention alive. My favorite focus word for the book also appears- balance.
The introduction to the book makes the case that the world has changed so much in the last few decades that learning and education have also changed. The authors then present a four question exercise that challenges the reader to explore past successes and future possibilities. The answers fuel the nine chapters of the book as they present a handy guidebook for the topic.
I liked the past and future comparisons that focused on the shift from the Industrial Age to the “Knowledge Age.” The statistic that stood out was that with new skills, the job shift will mean that people between the age of 18-42 will have 11 different jobs. It presents a powerful case for the shift from “brawn to brain” while retaining critical values and traditions. The key concept is again balance and learning balance.
Part Two outlines 21st Century skills that reminded me of traditional fundamental ideas with the addition of media literacy and applying technology effectively. The career and life skills section hit home with concepts that I would like to see my students master- initiative and self direction, accountability, and leadership.
Part Three puts the learning into practice with an in depth discussion of project and design based learning. There was a brief discussion of obstacles. Since the emphasis was very positive and directed, I think the obstacles were mentioned primarily in passing.
The creation of a productive, prepared student is a goal that educators have had for years. This book presented a new look at the challenges and the shift of ideas and tools that our students will face in the coming years.
The resources at the end of the book were very well organized. Section A was by chapter, section B was Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and section C was a summary of skill sets. The book was infused with diagrams and charts for those of us who like the visual as well as the text.
For those who are looking for a great overview of the topic with thought provoking ideas, I can highly recommend this book.

Laptop assignment

Recently, I had several students submitting entries to a haiku contest. They had to be submitted online, and you had to be 13 years old to enter the contest. All of my students completed the assignment for credit, and the students that were eligible needed to complete the process. We used the laptops. For the students that were not able to enter the contest, we had them log onto  This website provided an interactive vocabulary lesson that had several levels. The students were very involved in the site and actually did well on the college level words- much to their delight. It was very interesting to see what students knew about the laptops, and the last 10 minutes of class we took questions about our 1:1 program. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and the students said that they enjoyed the vocabulary drill.

Collaboration Fluency

As I researched my fluency, I realized that the team working proficiency extended into my drama class. As we research our parts for our skits, I ask the students to create a back story for their character. Since I have a wide range of comfort levels with performing, some students are eager to take the “hot seat” and improvise a background for their characters orally. Other actors are not comfortable with the spontaneous nature of the assignment. Many times they would avoid the exercise at all cost. It occurred to me that a character sketch template completed on a computer would allow those students to complete the process without the extra stress. Although only a few students need this adjustment, it will allow the novice performer the experience of the creative process that can be transferred  onto the stage. The real test will be their comfort level at the performance for their peers in the middle school. I think it may be a better way to help actors see that they are part of an interactive effort and encourage the collaboration fluency.